As we scrambled up what turned out to be the scariest part of the trail, I was beginning to wonder if the views would be worth it… spoiler alert – THEY WERE!
The Tent Ridge Hike is one of the best hikes near Banff for incredible views. The views from the top give you panoramic view out over Spray Lakes and the surrounding mountains.
They honestly look like something out of a fantasy movie in my opinion.
One of the best things about Tent Ridge is that the views last for the majority of the hike. For us, this meant that the hike took extra long because we couldn’t stop stopping to admire the views.
Tent Ridge Horseshoe is located in Spray Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country. It is about a 1 hour 15 minute drive from Banff. Tent Ridge is the perfect bucket list hike to add to your Banff Itinerary!
There are quite a few things to consider before you set out to hike Tent Ridge. Everything you need to know if located in this guide, including:
- Where to park
- Are passes or permits required
- What about bears?!
- Is there a lot of scrambling
- How scary is the hike
- How long will Tent Ridge take
- Which direction should you hike in
- When is the best time to hike Tent Ridge Horseshoe
- Where are the best photo spots
How to Hike the Tent Ridge Horseshoe Trail in Kananaskis
📃 Hike Stats
Distance: 10.1km / 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 810m / 2,657 ft
Time: 5-6 hours
Dogs allowed: Yes
📍 Where is Tent Ridge Located
Tent Ridge Horseshoe Hike is located in Spray Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country. From Banff the Tent Ridge trailhead is about a 1 hour 15 minute drive and from Canmore it is a 1 hour drive.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
Where to park for Tent Ridge
The Tent Ridge trailhead and parking is located on Mount Shark Road, a little past the Mount Engadine Lodge.
The parking lot is an unofficial dirt patch. You will probably see a couple of other cars parked there from other people hiking the trail. It will come up on your right-hand-side. Use the map above to direct to the parking lot.
You will need to drive past the parking lot for the Mount Smutwood hike which you will reach first on your left. Mount Smutwood is another really popular Kananaskis hike with mind-blowing views but it is EVEN more difficult than Tent Ridge.
If you want to hike Tent Ridge Clockwise, which is what I recommend, after parking, you will need to cross over the road. Then walk back down until you reach a small trail leading into the forest.
The clockwise trailhead is pinned on the map above.
There is no official trail signage except for a sign which states no camping and no campfires allowed. There was also a ribbon attached to one of the bushes when we were here, indicating the start of the trail.
If you want to hike Tent Ridge counter-clockwise, you will need to hike up the road and cross over to the other side. You will then find the same no camping and no campfires sign at the start of a slightly narrower trail which then turns into a logging road.
A few hundred metres after starting hiking on this trail, you will need to take a left turn. This will take you off the logging road and you will continue onto the trail for Tent Ridge.
The counter-clockwise trailhead is pinned on the map above.
❗ Things to Consider Before Hiking Tent Ridge
- Bring along a fully charged headlamp (just in case).
- Bring plenty of food and water – you will be burning lots of energy.
- Don’t forget your bear spray!
- It can get very windy up on the ridgeline so try to pick a day with low wind and low gusts.
- Let someone know where you are going and when they can expect you back.
- Wear good hiking boots or trail runners with a hard sole and lots of grip!
- You may want to consider bringing along a pair of hiking poles for this one to help with the slippery sections and to save your knees on the way down.
- There is no cell service along the trail so make sure you download both google maps and Alltrails.
🐴 Why is it called Tent Ridge Horseshoe?
The Tent Ridge Hike is technically called Tent Ridge Horseshoe because of the shape of the loop of the trail. The hike takes you up a ridgeline which is Tent Ridge. The ridge itself is literally in the shape of a horseshoe (hence the name, Tent Ridge Horseshoe).
🎫 Do I need a Hiking Pass or Permit?
You will need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to park at the Tent Ridge trailhead. These are CAD$15 per day or CAD$90 for an annual pass.
There are no facilities up at the Tent Ridge trailhead or along the trail.
🐻 What is the Bear Situation
I’m not going to lie, Tent Ridge is a popular area to spot Grizzly Bears and the trail does get closed pretty frequently.
Make sure you bring along your bear spray and hike in a group of at least 2 people but preferably more if possible. When we did this hike, we only had the two of us and saw a lot of other people along the trail so that was reassuring.
Make lots of noise when you are hiking through the forest and then out towards the meadows as this is where bears are often spotted.
Pro Hiking Tip: I also recommend checking the trail reviews on Alltrails before you hike Tent Ridge. We do this for every hike to check the trail conditions and also to see whether any bears have been spotted recently.
🥾 How Hard is the Tent Ridge Hike / How much Scrambling Will I have to do
Tent Ridge is a hard hike, both mentally and physically. In my opinion, it is more mentally hard than physically because of the sheer cliffs during a lot of the trail and the scrambling section.
If you are not scared of heights, you will probably not have any issues.
I struggle when there is loose gravel that I have to walk on with sheer drop offs to the side which is exactly what Tent Ridge has.
The scramble section at the start is not too hard but you will need to use your hands to help climb up the rocks. Once you are past this section, the rest of the hike is not too hard. Again, it all depends on where your strengths lie which will obviously vary greatly from person to person.
The entire ridgeline is very gravelly and quite slippery so I recommend wearing hiking boots or trail runners with good grip. I found that hiking poles also helped with this.
🕐 Tent Ridge Hiking Time
Tent Ridge generally takes people about 5-6 hours but could take shorter or longer depending on how afraid of heights you are and how many times you stop to take photos.
I was pretty out of my comfort zone as this was one of the first big hikes we did in Canada and I think it took us almost 10 hours!
🐶 Can Dogs do Tent Ridge
Dogs are allowed on the Tent Ridge Horseshoe trail, however must remain on a leash.
There are some sections of the hike that a dog may struggle with such as the scrambling section to get up to the ridgeline.
📆 When is the Best Time of the Year to Hike Tent Ridge
The best time of year to hike Tent Ridge is Summer from July through to October (depending on when the snow melts and returns. Quite often, the snow sticks around in this area late into June and even July.
We hiked Tent Ridge in mid-July and there was still a patch of snow that we needed to navigate through. Some other hikers were having a blast sliding down. 🤣
Another great time to hike Tent Ridge is during Fall when the larches are golden. We had planned on doing this last year but changed our minds as a bear had been spotted in the area multiple times in the days leading up to when we were there.
Tent Ridge should be avoided in Winter as it is a high risk avalanche area.
📷 Where are the Best Photo Spots on the Tent Ridge Hike
The best photo spots along the Tent Ridge trail if you want to be picky and not include the entire ridgeline, are when you first reach the top of the ridge and again right before you start heading back down the scree trail.
The insta-famous shot is from the end section right before you head back down.
⛺ Can I Camp on the Tent Ridge Trail?
There are no backcountry campsites along the Tent Ridge Trail. The closest car camping to Tent Ridge is the Spray Lakes West Campground.
🛌 Where to Stay Nearby
We stayed in Canmore at the Rundle Mountain Lodge which was pretty affordable compared with other hotels during the Summer months. The bed was comfy and the room was cozy so I’m calling it a win. 😊
Mount Engadine Lodge – located a 3 minute drive / 30 minute walk from the Tent Ridge trailhead, this is the closest hotel to the trailhead.
Basecamp Resorts – located in Canmore, about a 1 hour drive from the trailhead.
Nomad by Samsara Resort – located in Canmore, about a 1 hour drive from the trailhead.
Moose Hotel and Suites – a beautiful hotel in Banff with an amazing roof top hot tub, about a 1 hour 20 minute drive from the trailhead.
HI Banff Alpine Centre – one of our favourite hostels to date, located in Banff about a 1 hour 20 minute drive from the trailhead.
Spray Lakes West Campground – unserviced, first come / first serve campsites available from May to August only about a 35 minute drive from Tent Ridge trailhead.
🕘 Which Direction to Hike Tent Ridge in?
The best direction to hike Tent Ridge Horseshoe in is clockwise. This way you will climb UP the scrambling section at the start of the hike to get up to the ridge instead of having to climb down it which I think would be more difficult.
We did Tent Ridge Clockwise and would do it again in this direction if we hike it again some day.
🥾 Tent Ridge Trail Description
This Tent Ridge Trail description is based on hiking the trail in a clockwise direction, as this is the most popular way to complete the hike.
Beginning of the hike
From the parking lot, you will need to cross the road and walk back down the road the way you came. Follow the instructions in this blog to get to the trailhead and start hiking through the forest.
The trail continues through the forest for some time, during which you will be hiking steadily upwards. This is the easy section of the hike.
The trail can be a little disorientating at times. We came across a group who had taken a wrong turn because of all the little offshoot trails breaking off from the main trail. For this reason, it is a good idea to have offline maps on your phone so that you don’t get lost.
Eventually, the trail will flatten out and you will be walking alongside a little creek towards the meadows. Don’t forget to keep your eyes out for bears!
After the meadow section and just before you start climbing up the ridgeline, you will head back into the trees for a little bit before emerging at a little clearing just below the start of the climb.
The Tent Ridge Scramble
As soon as you start climbing, the trail immediately changes from dirt to scree (small rocks). During the first part of the climb up, you will be following a scree trail which zig-zags back and forth up and up and up. There was a small patch of snow at the start of the climb when we did Tent Ridge in mid-July.
I was happy to have hiking poles here as I have a bit of a fear of slipping on the scree and falling. The poles gave me more confidence that I wasn’t going to fall.
Shortly after the zig-zag section, you will reach the first scramble section on Tent Ridge. The first scramble (yes there are 3), is not too bad, quite short and I didn’t feel too exposed when doing it.
The second scramble however is a bit more full on. Put your poles away for this one. Personally, I think it looks harder than it is. There are a lot of rocks to slot your feet into and use your hands to put yourself up. Just don’t look down!
The third scramble is the longest and most famous one that I think is probably the one that everyone refers to when talking about the infamous “Tent Ridge Scramble”. Don’t use your poles for this one either as you will need your hands free to climb.
The best way I found to manage my fear when scrambling on Tent Ridge was to concentrate purely on where my hands and feet were going and to completely ignore the “views.”
Enjoy the views from the ridgeline
By now you have probably realised why doing Tent Ridge in a clockwise direction is recommended. Climbing down these scrambles would not be much fun, especially when you have so many other hikers coming up at the same time.
After the main scramble sections, you will continue climbing/hiking up the steep ridgeline. Try to follow the trail that has been defined by other hikers.
Finally, you will reach the top where there is a weather station! We had a break here and took some photos of the views surrounding us.
You can get some great shots of Spray Lakes from here from one side of the ridgeline and amazing mountains from the other side.
Once you have got enough photos and had a nice rest at the weather station, it’s time to descend a little.
I know I know! You are probably thinking, “But Kerry?! We just scrambled all of that way up to the ridgeline! Why would we be descending already?!”
Don’t worry too much. It is not a huge descent. You are technically heading off the first peak of Tent Ridge, towards the second peak. The ridge connects the two peaks.
I actually found this section very mentally challenging. It was worse for me than the scramble section which a lot of people might find strange.
The reason was that we had to hike downhill on scree along the ridge which had drop offs on either side. Once again I was terrified of slipping.
I was completely fine. The poles helped.
Once we were done with the downhill, it was time to head back up to the second peak. The climb up to the second peak surprised us as it turned out to be just as steep as the first climb, however, without any scramble sections.
Watch out for the chipmunks!
Once you are at the top, you have made it to the Tent Ridge Summit.
This is where we chose to have lunch and take some more photos. It is a small rocky area with not many flat places to sit but it’s worth taking your time here because VIEWS! 😍
Make sure you watch out for the sneaky, cheeky chipmunks up here. We had one near us that would not stop licking Dave’s hiking poles and later we found out that he had also chewed through one of the straps on my backpack.
Head towards the famous view of Spray Lakes
Once you have had enough of “chipmunk summit,” it’s time to make your way along the ridge towards Spray Lakes.
I remember this section of the hike being easier than the rest of it, however, you will still be hiking along a scree trail with steep drop offs. There were a couple of extra scary sections, but nothing compared to the scramble sections at the beginning of the ridge climb.
Descending via the scree path
Once you make to the very edge of the ridge, right before you start hiking back down, you will get some awesome views of Spray Lakes with the impressive looking screen path spiralling down in front of you. This is where the famous Instagram shots of Tent Ridge are often taken from.
Unfortunately, by the time we made it to this spot, the wind had picked up A LOT and we decided we needed to get off the ridgeline right away! We only got a few photos before we left and definitely didn’t have as much time in this spot as we would have liked.
The trail back down the ridge is a lot easier on this side of the horseshoe. We came to another snow patch where the trail turns right to head down towards the trees.
Once you are off the ridge, you will head back into the forest. You will now be hiking back towards the parking lot via the other trail which will spit you out at the higher trailhead. Once you reach the road, to find the parking lot, you will need to walk down the road.
🎒 Packing List
💭 Our Thoughts
Tent Ridge Horseshoe is not a hike for beginners, however if you are not afraid of hikes or rock scrambles then you might be fine.
I was well out of my comfort zone as a fairly new hiker (in Canada) and so being of the ridgeline and hiking on the slippery scree at the same time challenged me both mentally and physically.
In saying that, I don’t regret hiking Tent Ridge AT ALL as it is absolutely gorgeous with views that many people could only dream of.
Keep adventuring! 🥾
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